As a first grade teacher, AnnDee Nimmer experienced first-hand the need for proper room signage in the school. After constant interruptions by lost students and visitors, she thought “there must be a better way.” When circumstances beyond her control ended her time in the classroom, she took it as a sign to put on her inventor’s hat. She created RoomTagz™, an innovative solution to wayfinding in schools. In 2013, AnnDee participated in NIU EIGERlab’s signature event, FastPitch! The Competition inspired her to perfect her pitch, and compete. She was off to an impressive start, making the group of finalists before she sold her first sign. As a FastPitch competitor, she received valuable training and lots of positive feedback, and she’s never looked back.
“I never thought I’d have another career which I’d embrace as much as teaching. My goal was to create a sign that was highly visible, appealing, easily updatable, which had a consistent look resulting in an enhanced experience for students and visitors. Many of those elements are also vitally important in emergency situations,” said AnnDee.
“In most schools, each teacher creates their own sign resulting in visible clutter, and a treasure hunt for students and visitors. It was similar to driving on a new road with no street signs,” shared AnnDee.
Principals, teachers, PTO members, and other school stakeholders have been enthusiastic about the signage system. “What an amazing transformation and addition to our school. This is an awesome investment for any organization to build positive culture and climate. Thanks again from Clark Elementary School,” shared Jim, Principal of Clark Elementary School in South Beloit, Illinois.
Being a people person herself, AnnDee thought she’d miss teaching. During her entrepreneurial journey, she discovered that through her efforts to enhance school signage, she still has the opportunity to interact with people on a daily basis. But, more importantly, her signage has impacted thousands of people in over 300 schools. She’s elated with the exponential growth, and the effect of changing the school’s climate and culture resulting in everyone feeling more connected and welcome. Danielle, PTO President in Washington, NJ recently shared, “For many of the families, this will be their introduction to our school and there is nothing that we have done that will have a greater impact on our communities than your signs.”
Entrepreneurial Successes & Trepidations
“I couldn’t be happier with my exponential growth,” AnnDee said. “Year One we contracted with only a handful of Midwestern Schools and had $50,000 in sales. Now, five years later, I’m elated to share that RoomTagz™ signage guides people in over 300 schools in 46 states, in addition to three international schools. I’ve been fortunate to experience 30-35% annual growth consistently, which has been both amazing and daunting,” shared AnnDee.
“Growth is a double-edged sword, and being on the cusp of this level of progress requires a number of decisions. Right now, I am inundated working IN my business, instead of ON my business. Streamlining, filling key positions, and partnering with entities such as NIU EIGERlab and the Small Business Development Center will assist me in making key decisions,” said AnnDee.
To her surprise, AnnDee has found that she has all the characteristics of a serial inventor. She has a number of new product ideas in mind and she may present one of her new products at the FastPitch Competition at NIU-Rockford on October 3. Who knows, like other Rockford area inventors who got their start at FastPitch, she may go on to showcase her products on the Home Shopping Network, Good Morning America, and Shark Tank. As she modestly notes, “I haven’t eliminated any of these options from the realm of possibilities.”
To learn more regarding NIU EIGERlab’s programming, services, and the 2018 FastPitch Competition, visit www.EIGERlab.org or phone 815.753.2192.